Starting your life afresh after being convicted of a crime could be quite problematic. A criminal record can pose a lot of problems for you, especially when it comes to applying for jobs or even getting a house. This is because everyone tends to conduct a background check before hiring someone.
Your criminal record cannot be hidden, and thus people would likely be wary of you. It is expungement that can make things easier for you wherein the state seals all of your previous records so that they cannot be accessed by anyone, thereby ensuring that you can start your life with a clean slate.
What do expunged and sealed mean
Let us first talk a bit about what sealed record refers to. Once your record is sealed, it becomes inaccessible via normal methods. Thus, when someone conducts a background check on you when you apply for a grant or job, they would not find any detail about your criminal record.
A court order would be required to unseal the records, provided that it is in the public interest.
Expungement, on the other hand, leads to your records being erased as though they were never there. Expunged records can never be accessed again, not even by a court order. You would thus be able to apply for a job and refuse to have any criminal record if your records have been expunged.
Expungement is an extreme method which serves to provide you with an opportunity to start your life afresh with the dark shadows of past left far behind. No evidence remains that you were ever convicted of a felony.
While it is true that sealed records provide the same kind of results, the only difference is that the slate is not wiped clean. Instead, the shadows are just shut off in a closet and can be reopened on court orders.
It is common for people to wonder whether they should opt for expungement or sealing. However, a choice is seldom provided since certain felonies can be expunged while for others, you will have to opt for sealing.
All in all, if you are apprehensive of stepping into the world with the burden of a crime that you have served the punishment for, this is something that can improve your chances of survival. You will not have to face any difficulty in acquiring a loan or getting a job since there would be no criminal records to hold you back.
Expungement and sealing felonies & misdemeanors
Before we move onto discuss the expungement and sealing of felonies and misdemeanors, let us first shed some light on the differences between the two.
A misdemeanor is considered to be a less serious offense. It is basically the kind of offense that results in a penalty of one year or less. Disorderly conduct, vandalism, and prostitution are examples of misdemeanors.
Felony is more serious with sentences of several years and restrictions on release. Murder and kidnapping are examples of a felony.
Can felonies/misdemeanors be expunged?
This depends on the felony or misdemeanor that you were charged with. Not all records can be expunged or sealed. You can only expunge your records if you fulfill the criteria.
What felonies/misdemeanors can be expunged?
This varies from state to state. However, barring a few exceptions, it is seen that most of the felonies and misdemeanors can do that, thereby ensuring that you can seize worrying about the past and focus on what lies ahead.
What felonies/misdemeanors cannot be expunged?
This is also influenced by the state laws and thus varies. However, there are certain felonies and misdemeanors that cannot be expunged in a majority of the areas. Let us take a look at some of them.
- Those convicted of assault are likely to have their appeal for expungement rejected.
- An offense that requires registration to a registry including the sex offender.
- You can’t expunge sex-related and stalking misdemeanors if they turn serious.
- Using a commercial vehicle in the commission of an offense is another situation wherein you will have to bear disappointment for the expungement.
- Records of drug dealing cases cannot be expunged and neither can you get rid of the records related to a weapons violation.
- Resorting to contamination of food or drinks to make someone physically helpless.
How long does expungement take?
The overall duration for expungement can vary, influenced by a lot of factors. However, it is typically seen that the petition takes around three to four months to be granted. If the hearing in person is required, the duration can stretch to around six to eight months. However, the hearings in person are quite rare and required in extreme cases.
Simply having the petition granted does not end up things. You will need to wait for a further month before all your records are removed.
Another point to note is that you cannot apply for expungement right away. A waiting period is present following which you can apply for it. The duration of this period is influenced by the severity of the crime, sentence, and other factors.
How much does expungement cost?
At the end of the day, it all comes down to whether someone would be able to bear the cost of expungement or not. Once again, the overall cost of expungement would vary depending on the crime that you were convicted of, the sentence you were given, and the lawyer you hire.
The cost could be as low as $550 in some states and could rise to $1,050 in others. Thus, it essentially depends on whose services you hire and the state you live in.
The fee charged by the lawyer and the processing fee includes the cost of court, travel expenses, the cost of tests conducted, and police share among others.
Thus, it would work in your favor if you first acquire information regarding the processing fee and charges for expungement before you proceed to file for the application.
This will give you the time to arrange for money, thereby making certain that you do not find yourself at a dead end in the last minute and can make preparations accordingly.
The Process of Felony Expungement
Before proceeding to provide you with a step-by-step guide of the process of expungement, it is essential to emphasize that the legal process might differ in countries and thus a bit of research would be required. However, basic steps tend to remain the same in most of the cases.
- The first thing that you need to do is make sure that you are eligible. For this, you will have to acquire information regarding your state laws and the criteria that they have for expungement. This would ensure that you are aware of where you stand.
- Before filing a petition for expungement, you will have to wait for a specific period which is influenced by state laws and other factors. Age and severity of crime are among the factors that play a role in deciding the duration that you are required to wait for. Keep in mind that the waiting period does not begin till you have completed your sentence, served your probation period, and paid all the fines.
- The next step for you would be to get access to all the documentations of your conviction. Copies of the police records would be required for the purpose as well. A certain amount needs to be paid if you want to avail these documents.
- The forms for a request for expungement are to be availed from the state office. You will then have to complete the form, ensuring that you answer all the questions with clarity. In case of any confusion or difficulty in understanding, it would be better to acquire consultation from a professional attorney. This would make sure that you do not end up spoiling your chances.
- After the forms are properly filled, they would have to be filed with a court clerk. A fixed amount of fee will also have to be paid for the submission of the form which is non-refundable.
- Once your petition is filed with the clerk, they will give you a docket number which would contain the schedule for your hearing.